Up until recently,Thor (by means of Stan &Jack) has been doing a great job of keeping Earth &Asgard relatively separate. Other than Loki’s mischief,his problems on the mortal coil tend to come from Earth. The cover to Journey into Mystery #104 lets us know right away that things are going to be different. We’ve got a Storm Giant rampaging through New York City (!) and Surtur bursting forth from the center of the Earth (!!).
With Thor’s two worlds basically colliding,I expected great things from this issue and I’m happy to report that it delivered.
As is becoming custom,the story opens with the results of last issue –Thor’s defeat of Enchantress &the Executioner. Amazingly,we don’t bother recapping the events,but simply deal with the fallout. Loki admonishes the pair for their failure and crafts his newest plan. He prods Odin to visit Earth himself and gets tasked with the job of “acting allfather”while Odin is gone.
Wait…what? Loki,the guy Odin imprisoned in a tree for centuries,that spent the first couple of years of this very title tied to a wall,the guy that time and again Odin had to find a way to limit his mischief? That guy gets left in charge? And here I’ve been expressing disbelief that they were letting him walk around and taking his advice…That was just worrisome. Leaving him in charge? Amping his power? Odin,you’re kinda dumb…
After a few cute panels to show us that Odin is indeed on Earth,Loki kicks off Operation “Pain in the Ass”. He frees Skagg,the Storm Giant,and Surtur,the Fire Demon. This doesn’t escape the notice of Heimdall,who quickly calls for Balder to follow Odin to Earth and warn either father or son. It turns out that,Odin &Thor never get that chance to have a heart-to-heart about Jane as they must spring into action to stop Loki’s latest scheme.
And what happens next is crazy…Odin transports the entire population of Earth,frozen in time,to another dimension. Because if you have to hide a battle between 5 dudes from 3 or 4 billion people,the most logical solution is to move the billions of people to another dimension. Of course!
Before you have time to let that ridiculousness sink in,we’re quickly treated to the battle royale:Odin,Thor,&Baldur versus Surtur &Skagg. The fight takes up the entire rest of the issue,leaving just a handful of panels to wrap everything up at story’s end. The writing is particularly solid here as each of the heroes is given a chance to shine using their unique abilities. Baldur destroys Skagg’s ten-ton war club,Odin combats Skagg and drains him of his energy (and a Loki-supplied power boost to boot),while Thor is left to stop Surtur from melting the ice caps and flooding the world.
I did love the issue,but the ending does come up rather quickly. Surtur is imprisoned on a nearby asteroid,they don’t really say what happened to Skagg,and Loki is banished to “serve the trolls”. That sounds awful. With a “simple gesture”,Odin cleans up the mess and brings the population back to Earth completely unaware of what’s happened. That’s twice now in two years. These “Secret Asgardian Battles”might become an annual event,geez!
Tales of Asgard kicks off a new feature for the upcoming installments where they spotlight and “originize”(take that spellcheck) the members of Thor’s supporting cast. Jack &Stan start with the Guardian of Bifrost,Heimdall. It’s a relatively straightforward tale,showing the construction of the bridge and how Heimdall earned the right to be its guardian thanks to his ability to hear a far-off plant growing and his foresight at predicting a Storm Giant invasion. It’s a cute story,but the real highlight comes up at the end. After we learn that Heimdall has nearly inescapable vision &hearing,we’re promised that the next issue will feature the one time Heimdall failed. Good stuff!
As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #104 along with some cool panels of the Asgardian battle…